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The Dickens of Detroit

Illustration for article titled The Dickens of Detroit

Oh, goody. Over at Grantland, Michael Weinreb writes about Elmore's Detroit:

The morning after I arrived in Detroit, Peter Leonard, one of Elmore's five children, picked me up at the Greektown Casino and drove me around the city, up and down Woodward Avenue, past the Max Fisher Music Center, where he and Elmore would go to watch jazz, past the Majestic Theatre a few blocks farther north where, one night after a jazz show, Elmore smoked a joint and went to see a Grateful Dead cover band and lost himself watching the barefoot girls in peasant dresses twirl around near the stage. We wandered off onto side streets where entire blocks of houses had been razed, and through a mostly deserted Belle Isle, the park where Elmore had conjured literary mayhem once or twice, and we kept on Woodward straight out past Eight Mile and into the suburbs. Many of the neighborhoods Peter hadn't seen himself in years, and he seemed almost as fascinated to revisit them as I was, to discover what was still here and what was gone.

Elmore — and Peter, in speaking to me, referred to his father as "Elmore," though the older man often told friends to address him by his childhood nickname of "Dutch" — was born in New Orleans, the son of a General Motors dealership location scout, and the family bounced from city to city before settling in Detroit in 1934. And despite entreaties from Hollywood, despite the frequent visits to Florida, Elmore never left. He always wore unfashionable glasses, and he always had a beard, and, by all accounts, he used his ego only in service of his work.

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